Morning Report: Homebuyer sentiment softens.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2571 20
Eurostoxx index 346.77 3.89
Oil (WTI) 49.14 0.86
10 year government bond yield 2.69%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.43%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are down small.

 

As the shutdown drags on with no end in sight, the IRS has decided to begin issuing tax transcripts. It will probably take a few days to catch up with the backlog, but at least this headache for originators will go away.

 

Small business sentiment remains strong, according to the NFIB. “Optimism among small business owners continues to push record highs, but they need workers to generate more sales, provide services, and complete projects, said NFIB President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan. “Two of every three of these new jobs are historically created by the small business half of the economy, so it will be Main Street that will continue to drive economic growth.” Bill Dunkelberg notes the cognitive dissonance in the business press these days:  “Recently, we’ve seen two themes promoted in the public discourse: first, the economy is going to overheat and cause inflation and second, the economy is slowing and the Federal Reserve should not raise interest rates,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “However, the NFIB surveys of the small business half of the economy have shown no signs of an inflation threat, and in real terms Main Street remains very strong, setting record levels of hiring along the way.”

 

Growth in the service sector decelerated in December, according to the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index. New Orders were the bright spot in the report while most other indicators fell. Note that we are still at historically very strong levels, so there is nothing recessionary in this report. Residential construction remains an issue. One of the respondents said: “New residential home sales have slowed significantly. Tariff delay has slowed material cost increases, but all indications are that January will bring price increases.” I found that surprising given that lumber prices have been falling steadily for the past 6 months and are down 22% YOY.

 

lumber

 

Homebuyer sentiment has been souring as well, according to the latest Fannie Mae National Housing Survey. Blame high house prices: “Consumer attitudes regarding whether it’s a good time to buy a home worsened significantly in the last month, as well as from a year ago, to a survey low,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Although home price growth slowed in 2018, the cumulative impact of sustained, robust increases in home prices outpacing income growth likely helped drive the share of consumers citing high home prices as a primary reason for a bad time to buy a home to a survey high.” The net number of people who think it is a good time to buy fell from 23% to 11%. The net number of people who think home prices will rise fell slightly, but nothing as dramatic as the good time to buy statistic. Note that there was no major moves in the personal economics numbers either – the net number of people not concerned about losing their job hit 79%, a series high.

 

The Washington Post summarized the 2019 housing forecasts from the MBA, NAR, and more. The MBA is forecasting that the 30 year fixed rate mortgage will hit 5.1%. (Zillow is even more bearish – they are forecasting 5.8%) While those forecasts are certainly a possibility, they seem unlikely if the Fed is indeed done with this tightening cycle.  Despite that rate forecast the MBA does see purchase origination increasing, while refis will decline. The NAHB is predicting new home sales will be flat with 2018, around 618,000.

Morning Report: No progress on government shutdown.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2528.75 -3
Eurostoxx index 341.85 -1.49
Oil (WTI) 49.18 1.22
10 year government bond yield 2.65%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.43%

 

Stocks are flattish on no real news. Bonds and MBS are down small.

 

No progress was made over the weekend with respect to re-opening the government. Trump mentioned the possibility of declaring a national emergency in order to obtain funding for the wall without Congressional approval.

 

The drop in rates over the past month has caused an increase in activity in what is typically a dead part of the year. Falling interest rates have lured some buyers back into the market who are looking to take advantage of the decline before they move up again. FTN Financial estimates that if we get another 20 basis point drop in the 30 year fixed rate mortgage, 300 billion conforming loans will become in the money and refinanceable. With the Fed Funds futures predicting the next Fed move will be a rate cut, that is in the realm of possibility.

 

Friday’s jobs report showed an increase of 300k jobs, yet the unemployment rate rose from 3.7% to 3.9%. Does that make sense? It does if you get deep in the weeds on how the BLS calculates these numbers.

 

New York State is legendary for how long a delinquent borrower can live in their house without paying the mortgage. Some have been there for almost a decade.

Morning Report: Strong wage growth in December

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2480 32.75
Eurostoxx index 338.85 4.35
Oil (WTI) 48.05 0.95
10 year government bond yield 2.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.43%

 

Stocks are higher on no real news. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Jobs report data dump:

  • Nonfarm payrolls up 312k, street expectation 177k
  • Average hourly earnings up 0.4% MOM / 3.2% YOY, street expectation 0.3% / 3.1%
  • Labor force participation rate 63.1%, November 62.9%
  • Unemployment rate 3.9%, street expectation 3.7%

Overall a strong report. The uptick in the unemployment rate was a surprise, but is still below 4% and the labor force increased by quite a bit. Wages are increasing smartly, rising 3.2%. Those in the press (and DC) hoping for recessionary data will be disappointed with this report.

 

Yesterday, we touched 2.57% on the 10 year bond yield. If you were hoping to see that reflected in mortgage rates, you were probably disappointed. MBS are lagging the move in Treasuries (as usual).

 

The action in the Fed funds futures is truly astounding. There has been a complete sea-change in market perception over the past month. Look at the January 2020 futures (a year from now). Implied probability of another hike in 2019? Zero. Chance of a rate cut? Better than 50/50. Note the implied probabilities a month ago versus today. The market is saying the Fed overshot.

 

fed fund futures dec 2019

 

Compare that to the dot plot from the December meeting which suggests another 50 basis points of hikes:

 

dot plot

 

This is an astounding change in sentiment in just a month. It is certainly possible that the Fed Funds futures have it wrong, but it is clear the market and the Fed aren’t seeing the future even remotely the same.

 

Chinese demand is collapsing, as evidenced by falling consumption tax receipts. People have known that China has a real estate bubble and a shaky banking system for a while, but bubbles generally go on for longer than anyone ever expects. With the Chinese pulling out of the hot US markets, we are seeing a decline in places like Manhattan, where the median apartment price fell below $1 million for the first time in 3 years. There is a 16 month supply of luxury apartments in Manhattan, compared to an overall 4.5 month supply of existing homes for sale in the US. 6.5 month’s worth is generally considered a balanced market. The same thing is happening in the hot West Coast markets.

 

Kathy Kraninger, the new head of the CFPB sent an email to staffers saying that the agency will “continue to vigorously enforce the law,” but keep in mind “costs and benefits” and “maintain an open mind, without presumption of guilt.” So, she sounds like a continuation of the Mick Mulvaney approach and not a return to the Cordray “regulation by enforcement” model.

 

Mr Cooper bought IBM’s $48 billion servicing portfolio.

Morning Report: Apple fuels global growth concerns

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2474.5 -35.25
Eurostoxx index 335 -2.14
Oil (WTI) 46.64 0.1
10 year government bond yield 2.64%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.43%

 

Stocks are lower this morning after Apple cut guidance. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Apple cut its profit forecast last night after the close, which added fuel to the “risk off” trade. Declining iPhone sales in China were the issue, which is adding to the slowing global growth story. Tesla also cut its forecast, so some of the darlings of the 2018 stock market are beginning 2019 in the hole. The 10 year bond yield is at 2.64% the lowest level in almost a year.

 

The economy added 271,000 jobs in December, according to the latest ADP jobs report. This is the strongest reading over the past year, and indicates that 2018 finished on a strong note, despite the turmoil in the markets. This print is also well above the Street estimate for payrolls (177k) in tomorrow’s jobs report.

 

ADP report

 

Speaking of labor data, initial jobless claims came in at 231k last week. This is a touch higher than the previous numbers we have been seeing, but there probably is some seasonal noise in the number. Challenger and Gray noted 43,884 job cuts in December, and said that total job cuts in 2018 were 29% higher than 2017, largely driven by retail bankruptcies.

 

Mortgage applications were down about 10% last week as purchases fell 12% and refis fell 8%. The number includes an adjustment for the Christmas holiday, so there probably is some noise baked in, however it shows that (so far) mortgage applications aren’t really reacting much to the drop in rates. Again, this is the seasonally slow period so it is hard to read too much into it. The spring selling season begins in about a month.

 

Realtor.com sees continued tough sledding for the luxury end of the market, as excess supply, higher rates and tax changes all contribute to weakness. FWIW, the luxury end of the market had been outperforming for years, and supply has finally caught up with demand.

Morning Report: What does 2019 look like if the Fed is out of the way?

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2510 24
Eurostoxx index 337.45 1.25
Oil (WTI) 46.4 1.01
10 year government bond yield 2.73%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.60%

 

Stocks are higher as close the books on 2018. Bonds and MBS are down small.

 

Today should be relatively quiet as we have an early close in the bond market and no economic data to speak of. Economic data has been delayed due to the government shutdown, but so far it looks like BLS is still working so we should get the jobs report on Friday.

 

Pending home sales dropped 0.7% in November, according to NAR. YOY, activity was down 7.7%. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the current sales numbers don’t fully take into account other data. “The latest decline in contract signings implies more short-term pullback in the housing sector and does not yet capture the impact of recent favorable conditions of mortgage rates.” The government shutdown is not going to help things going forward, as the inability to get flood insurance will probably affect some 40,000 home sales.

 

People are looking at 2019 and largely assuming that it will be a carbon copy of 2018 with respect to the mortgage business. That is probably a safe bet, however there is one big difference: if you believe the Fed Funds futures are correct, the Fed is out of the way. For example, Freddie Mac anticipates that the 30 year fixed rate mortgage is going to be 5.1% and originations are going to increase slightly to 1.69MM. When that forecast was made (in August of 2018), people were thinking we would probably have two more hikes in 2019. I suspect that the forecasts for 2019 have yet to factor in a Fed that does nothing further.

 

Where will rates go, then? I suspect that unless the data changes markedly, they probably go nowhere. If we see a dramatic drop in GDP (say Q1 GDP drops to 1%) then rates are going lower as the yield curve will probably invert. If we see a dramatic jump in inflation (say Q1 core PCE hits 3%) then the Fed might hike again and we should see higher mortgage rates. However, the most likely bet is that they kind of meander around in the mid 4%s for the year.

 

Where will home prices go? Most forecasts assume that home price appreciation will slow this year, and that is probably a solid bet. Home prices have become largely untethered from incomes again and will probably lack much impetus to move higher unless wages get a strong boost. There is a housing shortage that needs to be addressed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean SFR construction – the needs are at the lower price points, and that means more multi-fam, not necessarily SFR. There is a glut of high priced properties as well.

 

I suspect that even if rates do move lower, there has been enough prepayment burnout to prevent any sort of meaningful refi boom. Volume is going to have to come from additional products (non-QM etc) and new construction. Volume probably won’t be as bad as 2018, but it won’t be better than 2017 either. Margin compression will probably ease up as competition decreases and marginal players exit the business.

Morning Report: Retail Sales strong

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2432.5 -38.5
Eurostoxx index 331.96 -3.2
Oil (WTI) 45.4 -0.32
10 year government bond yield 2.77%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.60%

 

Stocks are lower this morning after yesterday’s furious rally. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Was there any particular catalyst for yesterday’s move in stocks? Not really. Markets don’t go up in a straight line, and they don’t go down in a straight line either. Bonds sold off heavily, but you didn’t see as much action in TBAs. They were down, but not like the 10 year. TBAs have been lagging the move in the bond markets anyway.

 

Home prices rose 5.5% in October, matching the move we saw in September. The usual suspects saw the biggest increases: Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Phoenix is now showing strength as well. Affordability remains the most pressing issue: “Home prices in most parts of the U.S. rose in October from September and from a year earlier,” says
David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “The combination of higher mortgage rates and higher home prices rising faster than incomes and wages means fewer people can afford to buy a house. Fixed rate 30-year mortgages are currently 4.75%, up from 4% one year earlier. Home prices are up 54%, or 40% excluding inflation, since they bottomed in 2012. Reduced affordability is slowing sales of both new and existing single family homes. Sales peaked in November 2017 and have drifted down since then.”

 

Retail sales were the strongest in 13 years for last week, with same store sales up 7.8%. Since consumption is 70% of the economy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some strategists bumping up their Q4 GDP estimates.

 

Note that due to the government shutdown, the Commerce Department won’t be releasing economic numbers. We won’t be able to get tax transcripts out of the IRS, but FHFA should be running normally, so you should be able to get case numbers for FHA loans, and Ginnie Mae securitization markets should function normally.

 

The Trump Administration expressed confidence in Jerome Powell, and said that he is safe. There is a precedent for the President showing Fed Chairmen the door – Jimmy Carter dumped G. William Miller after a year on the job, though he kicked him upstairs to Treasury and nominated Paul Volcker.

Morning Report: The real reason behind the market sell-off

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2355.25 13.5
Eurostoxx index 335.24 -1.43
Oil (WTI) 53.35 0.82
10 year government bond yield 2.74%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.60%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Not a lot of news to work with, but most of the business press is fixated on the stock market sell-off and trying to craft a narrative that him (or the government shutdown) is behind it. This is nonsense. There is a sea change in the market’s perception that the Fed has overshot, and you can see it the chart below, which shows the expected Fed Funds rate for a year from now.

 

Fed fund futures dec 2019

 

Right now, the central tendency is that there will be no more rate hikes in 2019. But take a close look at the implied probabilities today and compare them to where they were a month ago. At the end of November, the markets figured there was a 23% chance that there would be no further changes, a 37% chance of one more hike, and a 25% chance of two more hikes. Look at the probabilities now: 59% chance the Fed does nothing in 2019, a 17% probability they hike 25 basis points, and a 19% probability the next move is a rate cut. That is a tremendous change in market perception in just under a month, and THAT is what is driving the markets. Not the government shutdown. Not Trump jawboning Powell about interest rates, especially since the markets are saying that Trump is right. Hard for the business press to massage that point.

 

FWIW, the Atlanta Fed is predicting Q4 GDP to come in at 2.7%. If there is a recession coming in 2019, today’s numbers sure are not signalling one.

 

There is concern in the economy that housing is slowing down, but in all honesty, housing never really recovered all that much, at least as far as building is concerned. We still have such a deficit between supply and demand that any fears of another 2008 – style market collapse are misplaced. Bottom line: the US taxpayer has been bearing the credit risk of 90% of all new origination over the past 10 years. The banking system does not have the mortgage credit risk issues it did during the bubble days – the private label mortgage market does not have the footprint it did a decade ago.

 

There is fear of a drop in global demand, and that is what the declines in commodity prices are saying. The Chinese economy is living on borrowed time, as they have a massive real estate bubble that will burst at some point. Europe continues to muddle through, and Japan’s start-stop economy is beginning to hiccup again. Fears of a global economic slowdown are a valid fear, however the punch line from that is ultimately lower global interest rates, which is a plus for the US, not a negative.

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